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August 31, 2020

Call to Action to All Surgery Journal Editors for Diversity in the Editorial and Peer Review Process

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill
  • 2Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill
  • 3Editor, JAMA Surgery
  • 4Department of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
JAMA Surg. 2020;155(11):1015-1016. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2020.4549

There is a great need for diversity and inclusion throughout the editorial and peer review process. The recent publication of the article entitled, “Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons” by Hardouin et al1 in the Journal of Vascular Surgery is evidence to this point and raises many issues and concerns that extend far past journal publishing. Hardouin et al1 performed a study that assessed potentially unprofessional content and clearly unprofessional content of recent vascular surgery graduates on the public sites of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Only 1 of 7 authors was a woman, and all 3 data abstracters were men. The article showed that recent social media accounts of vascular surgery graduates were found to have only 3.4% of clearly unprofessional content and no violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This is far less than what has been reported in other specialties.2,3 However, the authors chose to focus on the category of potentially unprofessional content, which was rich with implicit biases that negatively targeted women, among others. As such, the methodology and the entire editorial and peer review process has been questioned. The article has now been retracted, and the senior author and editors of the Journal of Vascular Surgery have written public apologies.4 But, the fact that male editors sent this flawed and biased manuscript for peer review, accepted it, and then asked a man to write the invited commentary raises major concerns. Overall, this incident highlights the problem with having a lack of diversity and inclusion throughout the editorial and peer review process. The many men, including the authors, abstracters, editors, peer reviewers, and commentary writer, involved in this process did not detect the implicit biases present in the manuscript. Because implicit bias reflects unconscious and involuntary thoughts, attitudes, and stereotypes, it is critical to have diverse viewpoints throughout the editorial process, from the editorial leaders and board members to the peer reviewers. Otherwise, a singular viewpoint may be propagated over and over again that does not reflect the views and values of all people.

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